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November 03, 1925 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1925-11-03

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Points Out Need Of "Humanizing" Education

Outlines Ideal Transition From High School To

College, From Absorption To Digestion In College Work, From Digestion.To Creative Efforts, And

From Undergraduate To Alumnus

u Makes Suggestions For Reorganization Of Student Body


S the ultimate object of higher education to
train youth merely to utilize successfully the
existing conditions of life, or is it to train it
to,attempt to build the future of our civilization?
There seems to be little need for hesitation in
deciding that it is the latter. No leadership and
no progress for humanity can come from a people
or from an institution content to expend all their
energies in utilizing the existing physical, mental,
and moral conditions of their surroundings.
Policies for a state university therefore must
come not from all the people of the State, but
from a group of men who are giving their lives
to show the State how to educate itself and its
people. The people of the State must trust these
men absolutely and hold them rigidly responsible
for the fulfillment of that trust.
A State is born when its constitution is adopted.
Its' period of infancy may extend for decades or
even centuries. It may never-as a unit-go to
school, become educated and progress in self con-
trol and self criticism which are essentials of
growth and development.
Its attitude towards its duties and obligations
may remain as unformed and as primitive as those
of a three-year-old child. It may even remain
in the cradle discovering and playing with its very
absorbing industrial "toes" without ever evincing
the slightest desire to assume further intellectual
tasks. There are such States.
Michigan is not. one of these. It never has
been and we firmly believe never will be. From
its very foundation it has'wished its people to be
well-equipped intellectually.
There is evidence on all sides that the wish
was not for merely cold, material efficiency but
rather for a point of view which would bring
self-respect, self-control, and a sense of high ideal-
ism to its citizens.
In realizing this wish by the generous expendi-
ture of material resources for its educational in-
stitutions it is, perhaps without being conscious
of the fact, showing that the State itself as an en-
tity-as an organism, has become hungry for self-
improvement and for the assumption of the higher
obligations and duties of humanity.
In such an atmosphere it is not difficult to face
frankly certain truths and to attempt to derive
from them, principles which may guide our poli-
cies. This I hope to attempt in the course of the
time at our disposal.
T III 'first matter of importance is the "human-
izing" of our higher education. By this I
roughly mean the shifting of emphasis from sub-
jects taught to the individual student.
The lack of sympathy shown by our system of
higher education towards the boy or girl during
-their various periods of transition from one of its
>hases to another is a matter of prime importance
and of immediate concern. Leaving out of our
discussion for the present the critical periods en-
countered during primary and secondary educa-
tion, let us for a moment take up that most in-
spiring group of human and inhuman activities
known as "admission to college." Some day, in
what we hope may be the not too distant future,
those' wj:o are obviously unfit to profit by the op-
portunities of a college education will be, in larger
numbers than at present, detected and discour-
aged from entering. Under the present system
we are so negligent that the vast majority of fresh-
men before their appearance on the campus have
never been seen by an official of the University.
The University has received a standard blank
containing their high school record-itself a com-
pilation of grades known to vary considerably
under the influence of the personal equation pro-
vided by pupil and teacher. So uncertain and
alluring are the elements which go into the

awarding of such marks and- grades that I have
often wondered that graduate students in educa-
t4'n nhsi-~ninm or nsvchnnov ave failed to util-

mentally equipped for college training. It is un-
doubtedly true that most certificates of this type
are honest estimates. There is, however, every
possibility that the offspring of an aggressive par-
ent who holds a position of political power, may
at times be seen with a more rosy hued halo than
the child of one who has no particular influence
upon the future of the teacher or principal. This
is a necessary situation in any community, but as
such, should be recognized and discounted rather
than essentially ignored as at present.
The written examination, another refined in-
strument of torture, is also looked upon with
great favor by, most institutions. A written ex-
amination is usually the amount of information
wlfich can under unnatural conditions caused by
nervousness, be unloaded in legible form by the
student within a limited period of time. The re-
sult is then numbered and handed in to be cor-
rected by a group of men, centrally located, whose
chief recommendation is familiarity with the pro-
cess of grading on a mathematical scale the written
agony of students whom they do not know.
If we were asked to trust a boy or girl with
several thousand dollars of our own money for a
term of years, we should selfishly desire to have
a personal conference with them before accept-
ing' the proposition. If we were going to give
them a similar amount of public money we should
as a matter of duty, have to make at least an
equivalent effort to judge their qualifications. Add.
to this the fact that the hopes and life work of
parents and friends may be based upon the fu-
ture of a given boy or girl and we are forced to
certain conclusions concerning our'handling of th
First: That the present method of admission,
resulting as it does, if one considers recent fig-
ures based on a large number of our colleges
and universities, in approximately 33 I-3 per-
cent "morality" during freshman year, is wasteful
and cruel.
Second : That it is good business and good
humanity to spend more time and money in in-
forming ourselves concerning the maturity, hon-
esty, financial responsibility, fixity of purpose,
and strength of character of the applicants for
admission to college.
Third: That the establishment of methods for
acquiring such information must, for a time, be
frankly a matter of experiment and research.
A BEGINNING in this direction was made
by us at Maine last year. Personal con-
ferences were conducted for prospective fresh-
men, at Maine schools. The-University sent as
interviewers, only men whose human interest in,
and judgment of, boys and girls were proven.
These men, on the basis of the conference gave
each candidate an approximate rating in the qual-
ities above mentioned. They tried to determine
whether the applicant was decisive, frank, inter-
ested, and fixed in purpose. They inquired into
his plans for finai'cing his college course and his
reasons for desiring to come to college. They in-
sisted in doubtful cases that he seek the advice
of parents or guardian in these matters. Time
cannot be taken to go into further detail, but the
blanks filled out by the examiner contain an esti-
mate of the applicant's ability, which opinion I
believe will be more clowely correlated with the
student's record as a freshman than will any other
single test at present in use: Students qualified
under the present scheme for admission were not
excluded. If they seemed unfit for college the
interviewer advised strongly against their coming
and outlined a course of action which he deemed
advisable. This information was given to par-
ents or guardian and the decision left to them.
The responsibility was thus also placed on them,
where it properly belonged. Unsolicited commun-

ications from the principals of several of the
larger schools stated that marked improvement
in attitude toward school work, with resulting ad-

A CONTINUATION in an acute form of
the transition period from school to col-
lege is met with on the arrival of the freshman on
the college campus. Like a row boat thrown
blindly from a wharf he islikely to be completely
swamped by the tremendous confusion of his en-
vironment. Three years ago we tried at Maine
for the first time an experiment which we have
called "Freshman Week." It has been continued
at Maine and adopted by many other institutions.
,The freshmen who have been offiially admitted
are required to report on the campus one week
in advance of the upper classmen. Fraternities
and sorrorities, by agreement, do not "rush" dur-
ing that period. The freshmen are divided into
groups of not more than twenty individuals. Each
group has a faculty leader and an assistant leader.
Each group is given headquarters in some college
building-usually in a class room. Whenever their
schedule does not require them to be elsewhere
they are required to report at the room assigned
to their group.
There are two major objects of Freshmen Week.
The first, already' hinted at, is to give the fresh-
man a chance'to hear about the organization of
the university, the aims of the particular college
in which he is registering, the customs and tra-
ditions of the student body, the methods of tak-
ing notes on lecture courses and on reading, and
the method of taking a written examination. He
also receives demonstrations covering the use of
the library, the whereabouts of the offices of
the administrative officers, and of the college
buildings in which his courses are likely to be
held. These are all efforts toward orientation.
The other object of Freshman Weekis to give
the university a chance to learn something more
about the freshman. With this in mind he is
given a careful physical examination, a general
nental test, and specific tests in English, and in
mathematics, and chemistry, if desired. On the
basis of these tests he is assigned to either ad-
vanced, intermediate or elementary sections in the
large introductory courses in these subjects.
His evenings are taken up with meetings or so-
cial events which are aimed to make him well
acquainted with the members of his own small
group and to give him a larger circle of friends
among other members of this class. It will not
be of value to go more fully into the detail of the
program at this time. Certain general effects
apparent after each of the three years experi-
ments at Maine may, however, be nientioned.
First: The almost complete disappearance of
the "lost" and "homesick" feeling which, if it
does not actually drive students away, seriously
interferes with their adjustment.
'Second: The oportunity for freshmen to be-
come a unit as a group and class before being
rushed off their feet by returning upper classmen.
Third: The formation of habits of regularity
and mental activity instead of drifting rudderless
and stern first up to their college work.
Fourth: More intelligent distribution of stud-
ents in the introductory courses. The tests given,
although not ideal, are a far more satisfactory
basis for judgment of ability than are examina-
tions taken at some period in the past, or than
high school records which at times are three or
more years old.
It is true that to conduct such a "week" in a
large and difficult undertaking. Trouble and time
are, however, in themselves no arguments against
it if boys and girls are aided by it. An objection
on the grounds that an institution has not enough
faculty members fitted to lead such groups of
freshmen may be temporarily valid, but is in itself
one of the greatest arguments in favor of a needed

THIRD great transition period is more
t and more becoming a matter of importance
in the shaping of curricula.' It occurs at that

viduals. This criterion alone is sufficient to re-
move it from the universality of application which
characterizes the first two transitions. The ef-
forts towards the establishment of comprehensive
examinations tutorial or preceptorial systems,;
honor courses, and indeed of various fields of con-
centration and distribution are all interesting and
valuable steps in the direction of separating the
sheep from the goats and in precipitating the
crisis of the transition as well as in dealing with
it while it is in progress. Such efforts are, or
should be, considered as being frankly experimen-
tal. They are, however, logically conceived and
should be continued, encouraged, and expanded
wherever possible.
T IlS change is one at present given little
attention in our curricula or administrative
methods. It is not of importance to the majority
of college students for they will never experience
it. It is the step from the correlative and inter-
rlative stage just referred to, to that of research
and creative work. Some are to be found who,
in the early stages of undergraduate life, show
an inherent desire for and devotion to creative
work. Others have to dig through a mass of pre-
liminary subject matter and undergo a gradually
built up power of correlation before they develop
the undying spirit of research. No matter how
the result is attained, however, the product is pre-
cious-beyond almost any measure. Such mdi-
viduals have at the moment when the spirit for
research has its birth, graduated from "college",
as an institution, and have become a part of
the eternal fellowship of scholars. I wish that
there might be in every 'university, a great hall,
many panelled and that on each small panel might
be written the date of "birth" of a scholar-a
student at that university. I should not wish
the date of his physical birth but rather that on
which he turned from the routine procession of
students and took up the tools of the builder.
Further than that I should never write upon the
panel the date of his physical death-for as an
influence and force in the furtherance of human
knowledge, once having lived he can never die.
It should be a happy duty of all our universities
to remove such research students from the rou-
tine of course work. Why bother them with
"concentration and distribution" of knowledge or
with this or that requirement? They have found
the spring from which the sources of these mat-
ters arise,-let them drink of it as fully and as
deeply as they will.
p INALLY, there comes the great and difficult
transition from college to the life of an alum-
nus. Here ordinarily there exists a break as
stupidly and as poorly dealt with as is that between
school and college. The average graduate at-
tempts to apply the information which he has ac-
uired during his college work, to some field of
human endeavor. He finds, however, that the
rules of the game are all different and that the
"pill-feeding" of the well organized lecture and
recitation system is no more. He experiences a
sensation of "great smallness"-if we can use
that phrase-that is a big first cousin to the "lost
freshman" helplessness. He feels the need of the
chance to recognize some method of behavior
common to his position as a recent alumnus and
to his past experience as an undergraduate. He
searches, and he finds-first-athletics-football!
Men he played with or saw on the playing-field
only a few months before. Does one wonder that
he grasps that interest and clings to it like the
hand of a long-lost friend? Second-he finds
some sort of physical or mental relaxation which
formerly was available to him, club-life, golf,
squash, evenings "a la motor" and so forth. Dur-
ing his workiin days he tries gloomily to fit

ready-made mental clothes on a most abnormally
e shaped job whose humpy shoulders and too large
t legs refuse to conform to the standard garment

writing, journalism, editorial work, history, eco-
nomics, physical training, hygiene, public health,
care of the sick, and other similar fields are the
parents and relatives of the particular "boy or
girl" college activity which is their personal friend.
Students must be taught to be at least polite to
the elder members of the family and must be en-
couraged to allow mere acquaintance with such
members to ripen into real friendship. The uni-
versity should later enroll them as new alumni, as
corresponding, and' contributing members of the
departments in which their interest lies. General-
ized and unrestricted giving by alumni appeals to
a magnificent sense of loyalty, but giving to one
or more of some fiftyor one hundred specific
objects outlined from year to year as needs of the
unviersity by those in charge of its administration,
will do much more. The factor of loyalty will
remain unchanged, but to it will be added con-
tinued interest in some special field of its active
work, and a definite and ever increasing desire to
keep informed and awake mentally in the progress
of that field. Together these things will com-
bine to give to the alumnus a "hobby", a child for
his old age, and a feeling of permanent invest-
ment in the training of boys and girls who could
and would understand his interest and appreciate
it personally and genuinely. There will, of course,
be some alumni who prefer to give to all of the
'university's needs and who are willing to leave
it to the authorities of the university to distribute
the gift. These would not in any way be pre-
cluded from giving by the fact that the needs are
individually outlined and classified. This matter
is, a step on the road towards taking the alumni
into the confidence of those administering the uni-
versity-a step in my opinion sorely needed in
many institutions.
The second thing which can be done to make
the transition from undergraduate to alumni ex-
istence more natural is, insome respects, more
radical. It involves two admissions. First, that
the student should spend his summer yacations
profitably, and second, that he should in some way
be fitted for some type of unselfish social service.
In my opinion, every student should be obliged
to submit to the university authorities a plan of
his summer activities. The plan should' be suf-
ficiently detailed to enable the university to know
fairly well how his time would be spent. A
signed statement should be filed with the univer-
sity in the autumn as to whether the plan' had
been carried out,-its success,-and if neces-
sary, the reasons for its failure. Those who for
no valid reason spend their summers in idleness
should have that fact recorded,-those who use
their summers in constructive work should have
that fact recognized as one more proof of their
fitness for continued public trust and confidence
as a student much of whose education was being
paid for by the tax payers of the State.
In continuation of. the second point involving
steps to fit the student for some social service, I
believe that every male college student who does
not need to use all of his summers during his
undergraduate years for earning money to defray
his or some dependent's expenses, should devote
one or more of his under-graduate summers to
boys' work, to care of the sick, or to work without
pay in some charitable or benevolent organization.
Essentially the same program with the possible
addition of care of young children as a valuable
field of activity, should be followed by women
These programs would make the transition from
the under-graduate to the alumnus status more
easy because in using the summers wisely, nat-
ural contacts with the world outside of the uni-
versity can be built up and because the training
in social service gives the student a way in which

he can, apart f rom business, enter the intimate
life of the community in which he will settle after
graduation. These things would also be obviously
in the nature of character builders and a step in

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